Introduction: It was the 1970s, revolution was in the air, and so was the spirit of disco. As everyone revelled under the shining lights, in the heart of the Bronx in New York, a collaboration of epic proportions was taking shape – one that would change the course as well as the history of music with some breakbeats, scratches and vocal improvisations. Back then, perhaps the collaborating Black, Latin and Caribbean Americans didn’t know that they were busy defining a genre that would be rapidly taking over hearts and charts several decades down the line. Hip hop has evolved from a storytelling tool to a means of celebration, and now with battle raps taking centre stage, jewellery has become an essential part of self-expression.
The relationship between hip hop and natural diamonds has been symbiotic. “Rap has always been about struggle in one form or another, while jewellery in rap has always symbolised escaping that struggle,” shares Raftaar, one of India’s best known rap artists. A man of humble beginnings, his journey as an artist started in 2008. His mastery as a rapper lies in his storytelling skills – honest, yet soulful.
And it’s time to explore the relationship rappers and hip-hop artists have with bling accessories with Raftaar!
Welcome to the Bling Brigade Natural diamonds have grown to be conversation starters as well as showstoppers in this realm – take for example DP Diddy’s latest lavish gift to Yung Mami,
With some of them proving to be exceptionally creative, it was soon understood that jewellery was so much more than big rocks that dazzle. If anything, it was a space for artists to showcase their identity and versatility outside the album covers and music videos. “It just gives a sense of status and allegiance,” agrees Raftaar. “When hip-hop is flushed with cash, just as the status of the genre and its artists evolves, so does the jewellery. It gives that extra edge and persona to the artist!”
Truly, hip-hop artists have never shied away from making a statement with jewellery. With Kurtis Blow flaunting several statement gold chains on his self-titled debut album, the stage was set for those following in his footsteps. Over the coming decades, jewellery became an intrinsic part of hip-hop culture, helping artists celebrate music, love, and of course, successes. “In the beginning, hip-hop was a medium for the oppressed, segregated and subjected people of colour and people who were on the bottom of the social hierarchy. It was rooted in activism and resistance, not just materialism,” explains Raftaar while discussing the utter flamboyance of the genre.
Even though the initial era was characterised by gold jewellery, it didn’t take long for a whole lot of bling to make an appearance on the scene and even define it in ways. By the 90s, natural diamonds had become statements of the stars so much that it began to define them globally. After all, nothing establishes status or identity more than a few iced out statement pieces. “Rap was music for people who could probably never imagine themselves adorned in diamonds and precious metals. When a select few were able to climb out of that misery into the ranks of the rich via rap, it wasn’t enough to have it, it had to be paraded for all the world to see. The more wealth that was acquired, the more jewellery there was to be flaunted,” Raftaar continues about the tradition of bling in this realm.
Diamonds that Have Stories to Tell Over the past few decades, it’s not hip-hop music that has dominated headlines. True to the spirit of the bling, statement diamond pieces flaunted by artists have been in the news too. Earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, Offset gifted Cardi B an Audemars Piguet. Valued at a whopping $375,000, this natural diamond studded watch was the highlight of an elaborate Valentine’s Day plan that involved roses, and 6 Chanel bags.
For Rihanna and A$ap Rocky, redefining how people looked at jewellery associated with hip-hop was rather effortless. For years now, both have introduced classic pieces to their audience as a rather essential part of their fierce personas. From the aisles of Cartier, to the archives of Chopard, Rihanna’s public appearances are always a treat for everyone hoping to catch a glimpse of timeless natural diamond pieces, even while she was pregnant!
A$ap Rocky’s trademark diamond studs notwithstanding, his bold choices have been quite stunning, to say the least. His recent 2022 purchase – a two-finger ring crafted from 130 grams of 18 karat golf, and more than 5 carats of natural white diamonds, features a statue of a woman on it that looks quite a lot like Rihanna!
But that’s not all. For some artists, diamonds are more than just accessories. At times, they are quite an integral part of who they are. Take for example, Post Malone. In 2021, fans were ragging about his new teeth that cost almost 2 million dollars. With celebrity dentist, Thomas Connelly, pulling off this project effortlessly, Post Malone’s diamond-studded fangs give a whole new meaning to “a million dollar smile”. However, he’s not the only rapper or hip-hop artist to have gone down this road. Earlier this year, Moneybagg Yo got natural diamond motifs embedded in his teeth including a bag of money – inspired by his own name of course!
If you think diamond studded teeth are too extreme, you perhaps haven’t heard of Lil Uzi Vert. Already in the limelight for sporting facial tattoos, this rapper became quite the hot topic when he spent a whopping 24 million dollars to get a pink diamond transplanted in his forehead.
While every artist has a diamond studded piece (or few) close to their hearts, Raftaar shares with us a bit about that one piece in his wardrobe that means the world to him. “A Rolex Two-Tone Datejust 36mm Diamond Bezel Watch because it was gifted to me by my parents the day they thought I had made it in the business!”
Jacob & Co, one of the most sought after jewellers, has not only had artists like Jay-Z, Pharrel Williams, and many, many more proudly flaunt their pieces, but this jeweller has also crafted a diamond studded timepiece that countless people covet. Raftaar included. In fact, if he had the chance to own an epic natural diamond piece, it would be the Billionaire – a watch valued at close to a whopping $18 million. “This timepiece embraces the precision, the finesse, the rarity and the watchmaking excellence,” he says. Approximately weighing 260 carats, and studded with emerald cut natural diamonds, only one of these beauties are known to exist worldwide!
As hip-hop continues to dominate music charts and fashion trends, it’s time to admit that the genre is truly here to win hearts. With natural diamonds playing an important role in the evolution of the genre for decades now – in India as well as overseas – it’s time to embrace the fact that diamonds are more than a muse to some artists – they are an integral part of their personalities.